'Downton Abbey' to Return for Sixth Season

Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2013 for MASTERPIECE

"This will provide audiences with a fresh opportunity to see what will befall our much loved characters"

Downton Abbey is returning for a sixth season.

ITV and producer Carnival Films made the announcement on Thursday morning. Production will begin early next year.

"We have had an amazing reaction to the story lines, acting and production values of Downton Abbey this year and the whole team is thrilled to be moving ahead with a new season of the show," said Carnival's managing director, Gareth Neame said in a statement. "This will provide audiences with a fresh opportunity to see what will befall our much loved characters."

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The critically-acclaimed period drama from Julian Fellowes gets its renewal ahead of its season-five premiere in the U.S. on Jan. 4, 2015 on Masterpiece on PBS, as well as the local airing of its finale this Sunday. The series will also air a Christmas special next month, and release a corresponding holiday album on Nov. 10.

ITV’s director of drama commissioning Steve November added, "It is fantastic that Downton continues to be such a phenomenon — still the most popular drama on ITV in its fifth series — and we are thrilled to have commissioned a sixth series. We don't know yet what Julian has planned, but we are looking forward to working with him, the fantastic cast and Carnival again and have no doubt series six will be unmissable."

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